The President's News Conference With European Union Leaders in Lisbon
Prime Minister Antonio Guterres. Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon. A few words in English before making my statement in Portuguese.
First of all, let me say that this was not a business-as-usual summit. It was a strategic summit: strategic in the way we discussed the diplomatic and security problems of our hemisphere, the new common security and defense policy of the European Union, its relationship with NATO, our relations with Russia and the Ukraine, our commitment to the protection of the values of all civilization in the Balkans; strategic in our approach, bringing confidence to multilateral way of dealing with trade issues, our commitment to relaunch this year the new round of World Trade Organization and to solve in a case-by-case situation our disputes based on the WTO rules; but especially strategic because we concentrated on the new global problems that represent today the main threats to our planet—infectious diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, or AIDS, the digital divide, the difficulties to make the new economy a truly inclusive economy; and strategic because we decided to work together, the United States and European Union, to promote a global effort to match this challenge and to win this challenge, aiming at the next G-8 organization summit and working together in all relevant international fora.
Ladies and gentlemen, this has indeed been a meeting in which questions of global strategy have been a major element. Firstly, on this level of diplomacy and security, I think that we have fully understood the importance of our common European security and defense policy and the interrelations between this policy and the instruments within it and NATO and in perfect accord with the relations between these two organizations.
We also discussed in a very consensual manner the efforts that the United States and the European Union are going to be making in their relations with Russia and the Ukraine, considering this an essential triangle for the stability of our continent.
And we were able to reiterate our firm commitment to what we are doing in the western Balkans and our conviction that what we are concerned with here are essential values of civilization—in Bosnia and Kosovo, as to the possibility there of establishing a real multiethnic community in this territory, and a commitment to transform Yugoslavia into a truly democratic country, commitment to guaranteeing or to trying to guarantee stability in such complicated areas as Montenegro, and to offer support to all the countries in the region in their development to offer a long-term prospect which is truly European for the whole Balkan region.
In our discussion, we attached great importance to the transformation of the new economy, the knowledge-based economy, not simply to be a privilege for the richest countries and for people and organizations with the greatest power in society but also, particularly in the United States and Europe, for all our citizens, for all our businesses, for all our organizations, and at the same time to establish a very strong interlinkage in our efforts with the objective of promoting a broadband link between our education information services on either side of the Atlantic.
We want to develop our common efforts to combat separation between rich and poor countries in this area, since we believe that this new economy is a basic and fundamental opportunity for the poorer countries to be able to press forward, to leap forward, and come closer to the living conditions of the more developed world.
But we can't talk about this without recognizing the drama which exists today in the world, given the series of infectious diseases leading to suffering and death for so many, such as AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. And we need to work together, seriously cooperating to promote global action to combat effectively these diseases and to develop in the next meeting of the G-8 an approach on this subject and to involve the whole international community and all international organizations, with the support of the European Union and the United States of America, in being catalysts in our efforts in this area. Given the global responsibilities we have, we must also meet these challenges of our times.
We also discussed many other questions—foreign policy, for instance—and of course, one point that the Portuguese Government cannot fail to mention: We talked about the transition of East Timor to democracy and independence.
President Clinton. Thank you very much. First, I would like to thank Prime Minister Guterres for his outstanding leadership in his tenure as EU President. I thank President Prodi, Commissioner Patten, High Representative Solana, for their strong leadership and the work they have done for transatlantic cooperation, and especially in Kosovo and in the Balkans in these last few months.
I would like to just take one minute to put this meeting into some historical perspective. We've come quite a long way since Portugal's first EU Presidency 8 years ago. At that time, many were predicting that Europe's new democracies would falter, that Russia would turn inward and reactionary, that NATO had lost its reason for being, that Europe's project for a common currency and foreign policy would founder, and that the United States and Europe would go their own separate ways.
Eight years later Europe's new democracies are joining the transatlantic mainstream. Russia, for all its problems, has completed the first democratic power transfer in its entire history. We have preserved and strengthened NATO. The EU has brought monetary union into being and made a fast start at a common foreign and security policy, a development the United States strongly supports. And far from moving apart, the United States and Europe today complete the 14th U.S.-EU Summit of my Presidency. So I thank all of those who have supported those developments.
Today we talked a lot about security in Kosovo, the Balkans, southeastern Europe. We talked about the European Security Defense Initiative, which the United States strongly supports, in cooperation with NATO. And we talked about a number of other issues, including Russia, at some length. We discussed the need to support democracy and economic reform in Russia and the continued need for a political solution in Chechnya.
I'd also like to thank the European Union for something else which is on my mind today because of the work I've been doing in the Middle East. I welcome the efforts that the EU has led to give Israel an invitation to join the Western Europe and others group in the United Nations. This is a very good development, and I think it will contribute to the negotiating atmosphere that is so important at this difficult and pivotal time in the Middle East.
Just two other issues briefly. We did talk, as Prime Minister Guterres said, a lot about the new economy, about how to maximize its spread within our countries and how to bridge the digital divide both within and beyond our borders, and we talked about the importance of dealing with other common challenges. I'll just mention two. I talked at some length about the climate change/global warming challenge, and we have made a joint commitment to do more to try to help developing nations deal with AIDS, malaria, and TB. And I am very grateful for the leadership and the energy of the EU in that regard.
So, in closing, I think it's been a good meeting. I think it demonstrated the vitality and importance of our partnership. I'd like to thank the business leaders who are here, who also have been meeting, and the environmental leaders and just say that from my point of view, all these exchanges have been very much worth the effort and are leading us into a better future.
Prime Minister Guterres. Senor Prodi.
President Romano Prodi. Well, I am most pleased to be here today with Antonio to discuss with our common friend the President of the United States the relationship between the European Union and the United States.
But before anything, I want to pay tribute to the support of President Clinton to the European Union. You always supported European Union, without any doubt. And this is the reason why our transatlantic ties are so good now and so strong. And I think that—you will go to Aachen to receive the Charlemagne Prize. I think you deserve it because this is the prize that is given to the Europeans.
Your predecessor President Kennedy was a Berliner. You now, you are not a Berliner but a European, I'd say, because I think that you belong to our family, really. The United States helped Europe, even at the most difficult point, even when Europe was becoming more and more powerful, like making up a euro in the last building of our new Europe.
Now we are 375 million people; we shall arrive to 500 million people with enlargement. And we discussed enlargement this morning, and we discussed how enlargement can be performed quickly, well, in a peaceful way, not harming anybody, and being accepted also by Russia. This almost was a photo op of the meeting that I had with the Russian President Putin just the day before yesterday, discussing how enlargement would be done and the aim, the goals of enlargement.
Concerning the point you didn't touch in our relation, we discussed frankly about trade. And of course, conflicts between the two biggest trade powers in the world are always possible. We are the largest trade in the world, and we represent more than 40 percent of world trade.
We are committed, and we decided to be committed today to a more territorial trade system, and all trade disputes will be settled case by case under WTO rules. This was clear. There was a clear commitment. And we decided also that megaphone diplomacy will be replaced by telephone diplomacy. It is more constructive, even less sexy. [Laughter]
I am pleased that we have already two results of this cooperation. After 3 years of discussion, we are finally able to come today with a solution to settle our difference on that of protection, which is a very delicate issue. And then we developed jointly the safe harbor concept. And so we shall have, together, high data protection standards and free information flows.
This deal has been approved today by our member states and so will not be reviewed by the European Parliament. It's done. WTO accession of China will take place very soon, I hope— we hope. We are working for that, and we are— the two teams, the American, U.S. team and the European Union teams, are really working together for that.
And we launch today the biotechnology consultative forum to foster public debate and create more common understanding. I remember that this forum, which I proposed in October last year at my first meeting with you, Bill, is made of outstanding and independent individuals from outside the government. It's a very independent body. And I do expect that this forum will meet in July.
And so we agreed also to go together to the G-8 with a strong agenda on the tragic problem of sickness in the world. We shall elaborate this strategy for tuberculosis, malaria, and AIDS fighting over all the world. This is the agreement that we have today in a very good friendship environment.
And also, I want to add as the last reflection that—you talked about the Balkans—we know that together with the action, with the Stability Pact, with the progress that you are doing day by day, we must find a long-term solution in the idea of European Union spirit, in the European Union environment, in order to give a long-lasting solution to the Balkan problems.
National Missile Defense System
Q. Prime Minister Guterres and President Prodi, in a few months President Clinton will make a decision about a national missile defense system for the United States. For an American audience, can you explain any European concerns about deploying such a system and whether, in your just-completed trip to Moscow, President Putin expressed any flexibility about amending the ABM to allow such a system?
And President Clinton, in the system that you envision, would that allow for the missile protection system to protect Europe and our NATO Allies, as Governor Bush has suggested?
Prime Minister Guterres. Well, President Clinton was kind enough to inform us about what he thinks about the matter. I think he'll express that better than myself. I'd like to say that this is a matter in which the European Union has not an official position, but we have—I'll say all of us—a main concern. We live in the Northern Hemisphere where from bearing to bearing we want to have a strong security situation. We believe we have built a lot on the process to create that. And we believe that every new move to strengthen these must be as comprehensive as possible, as agreed by everybody as possible, and as corresponding as possible to everyone's concerns and to everyone's preoccupations in this matter.
President Prodi. Well, I have to add also that President Clinton—there was no yet precise proposal done. But we discussed it on the general principle that there was no decoupling, that there is no division between the two sides of the Atlantic. We are still and we are more and more joined together in our defense purpose, not only in our economic purposes. And so the spirit in which we judge the program—we didn't go into the details—was a constructive and friendly talk.
Q. And the Russian President?
President Prodi. No, the Russian President didn't touch the problem 2 days ago. The program was not on the agenda, and we didn't make any head to that.
President Clinton. First, let me just very briefly reiterate the criteria that I have set out for making a decision. First of all, is there a threat which is new and different? The answer to that, it seems to me, is plainly yes, there is, and there will be one; that is, the danger that states that are not part of the international arms control and nonproliferation regime would acquire nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them and that they might make them available to rogue elements not part of nation-states but allied with them. Secondly, is the technology available to meet the threat? Thirdly, what does it cost? Fourthly, what is the impact of deploying a different system on our overall security interests, included but not limited to arms control? So that is the context in which this decision must be made and why I have worked so hard to try to preserve the international framework of arms agreements.
Now, I have always said that I thought that if the United States had such technology, and if the purpose of the technology is to provide protection against irresponsible new nuclear powers and their possible alliances with terrorists and other groups, then every country that is part of a responsible international arms control and nonproliferation regime should have the benefit of this protection. That's always been my position.
So I think that we've done a lot of information sharing already with the Russians. We have offered to do more, and we would continue to. I don't think that we could ever advance the notion that we have this technology designed to protect us against a new threat, a threat which was also a threat to other civilized nations who might or might not be nuclear powers but were completely in harness with us on a nonproliferation regime, and not make it available to them. I think it would be unethical not to do so. That's always been my position, and I think that is the position of everyone in this administration.
Q. Mr. President, for Portuguese Public Television, my name is Carlos Pena. In the middle of this month, in Lithuania, nine countries met, and they expressed their will to be part of NATO, and they want to work together. Did you address the question of further NATO enlargement and how you all see this kind of new "big bang"?
President Clinton. Well, the short answer to your question is, we didn't talk about further NATO enlargement. But we have worked hard to try to make NATO relevant to the 21st century. We've taken in new members. We have had partnerships with dozens of new democracies, stretching all the way to central Asia. We have specific agreements with Ukraine and Russia. And I think we will have to continue to modernize the structure of NATO as we go along.
And I think more and more, the countries against whom NATO was once organized—that is, Russia and other members of part of the former Soviet bloc—will see NATO as a partner, not a former adversary, and you will see further integration and further cooperation. That's what I believe will happen.
Q. Yes, I'll start with Mr. President. Now that you are formally a European, considering Mr. Prodi has given you the qualification, I just wanted to ask you how do you feel about the position that's been expressed by some members of your administration that there is really not an adequate counterpart when they have to deal, for example, on economic and financial matters? That there is a Europe, but there are no ministers. Every 6 months you meet a different President of the European Union. Do you feel that it would be better for Europe as a whole to move further ahead into further integration, expressing better and with more determination their position?
And the same question is for Mr. Prodi and for Mr. Guterres. Mr. Prodi, I know you've been attacked and some people have been saying that Europe is really moving back into some kind of national environment, a national policy. Isn't that a negative development?
President Clinton. Well, first, I think it's entirely a question for Europeans to determine, how they should organize themselves and at what pace this integration should proceed. But if you look at the roles now occupied, for example, by Mr. Solana and Mr. Patten, if you look at the work that the EU has done to get our common endeavors energized in Kosovo, for example, just in the last few months, I think you have to say that the European Union is growing stronger, not weaker, and that it's growing more effective.
How you should proceed from here depends upon, I think, both the attitudes of the leaders as well as popular opinion and will be determined in no small measure by what the specific circumstances are confronting Europe in the next 4, 5 to 10 years.
But as an outsider, let me just say, I think that whenever something is in the process of being born, being formed, maturing, and you want to understand it and then explain it to other people, which is what your job is—since you're in the media, you have to first understand it and explain it to other people—there is always the tendency to see in any specific event evidence of a pattern which shows either that there's backsliding or accelerating, going forward. I think you have to resist that a little bit now because, really, history has no predicate for the European Union. Even the formation of the United States out of the various States is not the same thing. And we had quite a period of time before we had a National Government, when we were sort of a nation and we sort of weren't, when we were sort of together and we sort of weren't, in a much simpler time when the States had nothing like the history all the nations of Europe have.
So I think that we all have to have a little humility here and let this thing sort of unfold as history, popular opinion, and the vision of the leaders dictate. But I take it, from my point of view as an American, I think that so far all the developments, on balance, are very positive. I believe we want a strong and united Europe that is democratic and secure and a partner with us for dealing with the world's challenges of the future. So I think it's going in the right direction, and I think it's a very good thing.
President Prodi. Well, on my side, the answer is very simple. You know that the rotation of power is as ancient as ancient Rome, you know, and Rome became Rome and it began with the rotation of 6 months, as we are doing now. [Laughter] But I can also add there is a rotation of the President's Council, but there is no rotation of the President of the Commission. And so there is some stability in this, on this power.
But I will tell you something more, just a hint, joining what Bill Clinton told now—look, let's stay on the path. Let's stick on the facts. The enlargement, resting on the facts, never happened in history to put together 11 currencies, you know. Let's stick on the facts— never happen in history to enlarge this democratic process as we are doing now.
I'm touring every day in the new applying countries. And to see 12 parliaments working day and night to apply the new legislation, to conform to the European legislation, is something that it makes different with history. This is what is happening now. And so I am not only confident that Europe is strong, but Europe will be the real new event of the democracy of the 21st century.
Prime Minister Guterres. If I may add something. I think we have achieved a lot, but we are not satisfied. We are going on. We have an intergovernmental conference taking place now to improve our efficiency in decisionmaking, our democracy, our transparency, and to make sure we'll be able to cope with enlargement and, at the same time, to deepen our integration.
And if one looks back at the recent Lisbon extraordinary summit, I have to recognize that I, myself, was not expecting the European Union to be able to take so many policy decisions in so many relevant matters in such a quick frame of time, which proves that when we want—when we have the political will to do that, we really can have good decisions, quick decisions, and can find the right path.
So I'm very optimistic about the future of Europe, and I think my optimism is shared by all those that want to join the European Union at this moment.
Middle East Peace Process
Q. Mr. President, it's been a very busy couple of weeks in the Middle East, as you know. I'm wondering whether what's happened there recently has created any new opportunities for the peace process, what dangers it might have raised, and whether anything that's happened there has given you new hope that the September 13th deadline for a Palestinian-Israeli agreement will be reached?
President Clinton. Well, I think the decision of Prime Minister Barak to withdraw the Israeli troops from southern Lebanon, in accordance with the United Nations resolution, was, first of all, a daring one which creates both new challenges and new opportunities. It changed the landscape. And from my point of view, it imposes on—it should impose, at least, on all parties a greater sense of urgency, because things are up in the air again. So there is an opportunity, to use a much overworked phrase, to create a new order, to fashion a new peaceful order out of the principles of the Oslo accord and all that's been done in the year since.
But from my point of view, it also imposes a much greater sense of urgency. I think the consequences of inaction are now likely to be more difficult because of this move. And so— for example, you have now—just for example, you talked about the Palestinians. I think this will heighten the anxieties of the Palestinians in Lebanon. Does this mean that there is going to be a peace and, therefore, they will be able to have a better life, either going home or going to some third country, going to Europe, going to the United States? Or does this mean that this is it, and there is sort of a new freezing of the situation? So there is anxiety in that community. You see that in every little aspect of this.
I think, on balance, it's good, because I believe they are going to reach an agreement. But it both turns the tension up in all camps and increases the overall price of not reaching an agreement fairly soon and the overall reward of reaching an agreement fairly soon. It changes everything in a way that both increases the pluses and increases the potential minuses. That's my analysis.
Q. President Clinton, sir, can you confirm if it's true that tomorrow you will meet in Lisbon with Prime Minister from Israel Ehud Barak?
President Clinton. Yes. I will, and I'm going to talk to Mr. Arafat before that, sometime today.
Q. Mr. President, I'm from Indonesia. Since in the senior level group it was mentioned the coordinated support for the President, Wahid, and Indonesian Government, how do you feel the political and economic development in Indonesia?
President Clinton. Well, first, I think it's worth pointing out that it's the largest Muslim country in the world, one of the handful of nations which will determine much of the shape of the 21st century the next 30 or 40 years by whether it does well or does poorly. So I think that everything that has been done to try to stabilize the country politically and get back to economic growth is a plus.
And I suppose, like any outsider, my only wish is that more could be done more quickly, because so many people within Indonesia's lives are at stake, and the rest of us, we really need you to succeed.
Prime Minister Guterres. If I may say something that might sound surprising to you—probably before this press conference ends, our Minister of Foreign Affairs will fly to Jakarta. And under the Portuguese Presidency of the European Union, it will be held, the first political dialog between Indonesia and the European Union. And that also shows the attachment we have in the European Union for democracy, peace, and stability in Indonesia.
Q. The New York Times. Mr. Prime Minister, Mr. President, could you share with us your impressions of President Putin and the extent to which you see any prospects for some flexibility on a political solution in Chechnya? And President Clinton, could you kindly expand a bit on your discussions today about Russia? And on the eve of your trip to Russia, do you foresee any progress on any bilateral issue, including arms control, Chechnya, corruption?
Prime Minister Guterres. Well, in our last meeting in Moscow, I must say that I was quite impressed by President Putin's determination in creating in Russia a democratic state based on the market economy and rule of law. It was also clear, from our point of view, that even if our views about Chechnya are different, he said—and he said publicly—that he was committed to a political solution. And he also announced his firm support to the inquiries to be made by an independent committee, his will to see the OSCE back, and to give better support to international organizations involved in humanitarian help. And he even stressed in the press conference that there would be people prosecuted for violations of human rights in Chechnya.
So even if this does not correspond entirely to what we think, it really shows a move and a step which I believe is in a positive direction.
President Prodi. I confirm that there was a precise engagement on concrete decision to make inspections and transparency more visible in Chechnya for the immediate weeks, for the time that is in front of us.
President Clinton. Wait, she asked me a question. Let me just say this, to start with a negative and end with a positive, I would be surprised if we bridge all of our differences on Chechnya, and I would be surprised if we resolved all of our differences on the question of missile defense, although we might make more headway than most people expect. I'm just not sure yet.
However, I do expect that there will be two or three other areas where we will have truly meaningful announcements that I think will make a real difference—one of them, in particular, we're working on it. If we get it done, it will be very, very important.
So I think the trip is well worth it, and even in the areas where we may not have an agreement, in some ways that may be the most important reason for the trip of all. We shouldn't only do these trips and these dialogs when we know we've got a guaranteed outcome. Sometimes it's most important to be talking when there's still unresolved differences.
Upcoming Meeting With Prime Minister Ehud Barak of Israel
Q. Mr. President, can you please explain the timing and reasoning behind your visit tomorrow with Barak and tell us what you hope to accomplish?
President Clinton. Yes. They have—first of all, all the balls are up in the air as I just explained, and so there is both greater potential for something happening and also greater tension in the atmosphere, which is causing a ripple effect in the relationship between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
Secondly, Mr. Barak and Mr. Arafat have set for themselves an earlier timetable, as you know, to reach a framework agreement—not a final agreement; that's supposed to be done in September—but an earlier one. And there are lots of things that need to be gone through that we need to go through if we're even going to reach the framework agreement, because a lot of the toughest things have to be—they'll have to come to grips with those just to reach the framework agreement.
So I have been looking for an opportunity to meet with Prime Minister Barak. As you know, he was supposed to come to the United States a few days ago, and because of developments in the region, he could not come. Then he was going to come to Germany and participate in an event to which he was invited anyway, and we were going to talk, and then he couldn't do that because of a holiday in Israel. So this was the only shot we had to do it and still have enough time to meet the deadline that both he and Mr. Arafat are trying to meet.
There's no—you shouldn't overread this. It's not like there's some bombshell out there. But we just really needed to have a face-to-face meeting, and we needed to do it in this timeframe. He couldn't come last week to the United States. Then he couldn't come to Berlin to the meeting to which he was also invited. So we're doing the best we can with a difficult situation.
Prime Minister Guterres. Ladies and gentlemen, I must confess I have enjoyed some time ago, very much, a picture called "NeverEnding Story," but I don't think we can repeat that picture and transform this press conference in a new version. So, thank you very much, all of you.
NOTE: The President's 190th news conference began at 2:49 p.m. at the Palacio Nacional de Queluz. The President met with Prime Minister Antonio Guterres of Portugal, in his capacity as President of the European Council, and President Romano Prodi of the European Commission. A portion of Prime Minister Guterres' remarks were in Portuguese and were translated by an interpreter. In the news conference, the following people were referred to: Commissioner Christopher Patten of the European Commission; High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana of the European Council; President Vladimir Putin of Russia; Chairman Yasser Arafat of the Palestinian Authority; Minister of Foreign Affairs Jaime Gama of Portugal; and President Abdurrahman Wahid of Indonesia.
William J. Clinton, The President's News Conference With European Union Leaders in Lisbon Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/228171